So the focus turns from domestic to europe. I don’t know quite how many consecutive seasons it is in the Champions League for Arsenal but it’s a lot. I think we also hold the record for the number of consecutive appearances in the knock-out stages.
You can’t help but think there’s unfinished business in this competition. The final in 2006 still stings a bit if you think about it and there’s always a sense that we didn’t do ourselves justice in the past. To think we might have prevented the rise of Mourinho but for that Wayne Bridge goal … ugh. I was watching some video of Arsenal goals on YouTube yesterday and Ray Parlour’s goal against Valencia came on. It’s amazing that that team didn’t do more in Europe.
When you consider the 2006 team was at the beginning of the major transition, the team that got to the semi-finals was a long way removed in terms of quality from the one that contained all those great players, and even last season we made the 1/4 finals and only went out at the hands of the best player in the world playing for the best team in the world it’s a bit odd. Certainly the manager feels there’s still work to be done, saying:
It goes through your head if you have something important to do tomorrow. It goes through your head the day before a game and the day after a game.
Yes, it is missing and we will try to get that right. You are more worried about others than yourselves and you want to do well for people who love the club. For the players, for the fans who love the club.
Tomorrow evening’s game is the first step on this season’s journey. We know Braga are a good team and from what little I’ve read from them in the build-up they’ll be looking to hit us on the counter-attack. I have no idea if that means they’re going to sit right back and soak up Arsenal pressure but I’m sure they’ll have watched games in the past where we’ve found it difficult to break down teams who get plenty of men behind the ball.
I really don’t know anything at all about their natural game but they’ve come past Celtic and Sevilla to get to this point so there’s no underestimating then. They won 4-3 in Sevilla, impressive by any standards. At this point we haven’t got any pre-game stuff from Arsene Wenger or from the Portuguese team so there’ll be a fuller preview of the game tomorrow.
If you would like to go the game I’ve got a pair of category 1 tickets to give away. Just check out the competition here and answer the relatively simple question. I’ll announce the winner on tomorrow’s blog but please note the closing time for the competition is 4pm this afternoon. That’s to allow Emirates to get in touch with the winner to arrange the collection of the tickets at the ground tomorrow. So, 4pm is the strict deadline and the RNG will do its stuff later on.
There’s still no news over the fitness of Abou Diaby. I’m sure we’ll hear today at Arsene’s press conference what the extent of the damage is. It’s nice to see a bit of mainstream coverage for what I was talking about on yesterday’s blog (I could easily do that for you, Guardian sports ed *cough*), yet how typical was it that the FA had YouTube remove the video from yesterday’s blog?
A 5 second clip, filmed by holding a mobile phone in front of the telly, and they’re claiming copyright issues. It smacks more of the FA not wanting incidents like Diaby’s to be replayed over and over again lest they be forced to actually address them. It’s only Sky Sports News that is allowed set the agenda, remember? Idiots.
There’s still the fear that the injury could be quite serious. The fact that we haven’t heard anything yet makes me a bit nervous, I have to say. Obviously we’ll keep fingers crossed it’s not so bad but when it comes to injuries I find my glass is rarely half-full. Or if it is half-full it’s half-full of infected orc piss.
All the same, and despite the rough treatment in some games, you do get the feeling there’s a resilience to Arsenal this season. Laurent Koscielny has taken some right clatters, got treated, got up and just kept going. We’ve come through two very physical tests against Bolton and Blackburn and walked away with six points out of six. Alex Song says:
We can fight when we need to fight and we can play good football when we get the chance to play good football.
I think the authorities really do have to do something about the overly physical approach of some teams, and I don’t just mean for the benefit of Arsenal when I say that, but until that happens (reminder: do not hold your breath on this one) we have to be able to stand up for ourselves. So far so good this season and long may it continue.
Kieran Gibbs has been talking about his first start of the season and he reckons the to and fro between himself and Gael Clichy will be good for us:
Not only is the competition going to be good for Gael to play well, it is also going to be good for the club as well because we are both fighting to win help the team win something this year.
I know he is rated very, very highly by Arsene Wenger and there’s every chance he could become first choice if his performances merit it. Of course that’s down to him and how he plays and how Gael Clichy responds to the very real threat Gibbs provides, a threat that Armand Traore really did not. For us it can only be a good thing to have two players so motivated to do well for themselves and for the team.
Not much else going on this morning. As I said a fuller look at the Braga game tomorrow when we’ll know if Vermaelen returns, how long Diaby’s going to be out for and any other team news that might crop up today.